Monday, May 25, 2020

Ironwood Road | Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobile: Ironwood Road

On asking for help
“Would it make it easier if you knew I’d always say yes?”
Fox smiled because crow always knew what she needed to hear.

Thoughts while making
I was seven. The asphalt wasn’t much older. But it was harder than me. Most things were.

It was also hot. Heat waves taunting like the laughter I heard as I ran up the street, head down, knees bloodied.

My neighbor’s dad, Ben, was the lead cameraman at Channel 8 News in San Diego. He was also Vietnam vet, and he made me nervous. I don’t think the two were connected.

The neighborhood kids often got pulled into local news stories. There was footage of us playing in the pool. Spinning on the tire swing. Watching a laserdisc movie.

And then there was that kite-flying competition. Right around the corner from my house on Ironwood Road.

Ben was there with the whole news crew. The street was all decked out. Picnic tables. Streamers. It was the real deal.

One by one, the neighborhood kids and their parents set their kites in flight. Triangles + diamonds, reds + golds, a light breeze tugging invisible threads, stitching clouds in an endless blue sky.

Then, there was me. By myself. And my pink puffer kite. With its slogan, “A puff of breeze is all it needs.” Which was, of course, bullshit.

I needed more than a puff of breeze. I needed someone to help me. I know I should’ve asked. But I didn’t like to.

“Maybe,” I nervously thought, “if I just run I’ll be able to get it up.” And so I did. Nothing. “Maybe,” getting more nervous, “if I just run faster.”

And so I ran as fast I could down that street. My puffer kite giving me the middle finger as it bounced off the asphalt behind me. And that’s when it happened. That’s when I tripped. At full speed. A cartoon cartwheel of a kid, blonde hair and arms and legs akimbo, as I rolled to a slow stop. I should have asked for help.

I ran home, bloodied + embarrassed, tears held back as that night’s news ended with “this little feller had a little trouble getting his kite up,” the newscasters laughing.

How many times do we go akimbo in life just because we don’t ask for help? What can you ask for today to make your world a little easier or better?

New North | Modern Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobile: New North

On grief
“I’m sorry,” cried fox.
“Please don’t ever apologize,” replied bear, “for how you really feel.”

Thoughts while making
A single tear. My mom said that’s all she saw. Her little boy in the emergency room with another broken arm. “Does this hurt,” the doctor asked, moving my wrist. A single tear.

To say I was accident prone as a kid would be an understatement. Bruises, broken bones, stitches, and too many pokey things – usually rusty and jagged – finding their way into my little body.

But I didn’t cry.

My grampa who lived a hundred lives and cried heavy tears when my gramma died, read Louis L’Amour westerns. He kept them in the trunk of his yellow Cadillac, right next to a stack of Playboys. They smelled like smoke, and I’ve loved them for decades.

I’ve retreated into those yellowed pages more times than I can remember. In good times + bad times, to hide + to find.

His are simple fairy tales of a west that never was, but that make me want to believe. The same story told 100 different ways, good always triumphing over evil despite impossible odds.

This past week, I was tucked into one of those tales, at home in my safe place somewhere between his high desert + the sun. I was sitting in the backyard, turning pages, when I unexpectedly started crying, thick tears, this deep grief washing over me.

And I couldn’t stop.

This past week, I kept hearing people apologize for “having a hard time,” a litany of “I’m sorrys” and “really I’m fines” and “I have no reason to complains” while simultaneously being shot full of a thousand pokey things – rusty + jagged.

The heroes of Louis L’Amour’s books, men and women, often find themselves shot full of lead. I find it interesting that they always acknowledge when they’ve been “hard hit” – even when they’re not sure how badly – and that they know what they need is to rest, to recover, to allow themselves to be cared for, and to regain their strength, before continuing on.

Imagine that: even just acknowledging – honoring – that you’ve been hard hit. Not apologizing for it. Not pushing it away. Not belittling it. Just acknowledging it.

Can you do that for yourself or help make it easier for another do

The Classic | Midcentury Modern Kinetic Art by Mark Leary

Mobile: The Classic in blues and browns

On secrets
“Distance begins,” said rabbit, “when these are kept.” 

Thoughts while making
Many years ago, I stayed in the small town of Fawnskin, CA. Once home to miners, loggers, and hunters, it’s nestled quietly on the shores of Big Bear Lake. At 6,827 feet, the air is clear, the water blue, trees brown and thick of trunk.

Ponderosa, Jeffrey, sugar, and lodgepole. Pinyon, knobcone, and Coulter. It’s no wonder the Serrano knew this land as "Yuhaviat," or "Pine Place," or that their relationship with the grizzly would one day name it so.

The cabin was a mishmash d├ęcor of thrift store finds, knickknacks, and mismatcheds. But there was one thing.

A black and white photo. Maybe 12” x 16”. Framed and hanging a little askew. It featured a stand of darkened trees, super saturated, pointing skyward, a tease of light, omens of something that was or was to come.

I don’t recall why, but on the morning I left I found a bit of stationery, sat down, and wrote a message. I also don’t remember the specifics, just that the note contained two things: 1) my hopes for the future, and 2) truths that I knew about myself right then, right there, that I couldn’t admit to myself.

I folded the paper in fourths, took the back off to the frame, tucked the note behind the photo, closed it up, and rehung it on the wall.

As I was packing up this mobile of blues and browns like the water and trees of Big Bear, I wondered about the secrets we hold from ourselves, from others? Secrets we know, secrets that if brought into the light, said out loud, could set you free? Who you really are, who you really want to be, what you really feel, your fears, and doubts, and places of shame. Secrets that have become substance, rails on a life guarded.

What’s one secret you can whisper to yourself today, unburdening yourself, freeing light to shine in dark places?

Ohana | Midcentury Modern Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobile: Ohana

 On sharing
“Let me get this right,” asked bear, “the more I give away, the happier I’ll be?”

Thoughts while making
Her name is Lynn, although we knew her as Mrs. Scherer, our 8th grade teacher at St. Didacus. She wore Birkenstocks and asked us questions that made us want to think. In a recent interview, she shared her philosophy on life and teaching, “draw them in with beauty, and then hold them with truth."

One day when we were digging into the “loaves and fishes” Bible story. You know the one, thousands of folks follow some dude in a dusty robe out into the middle of nowhere, supposedly without any food. Apparently, meal planning wasn’t a strength of the early Israelites. “No problem,” says the bearded one. “We got this covered,” he states with a wink.

Somehow – “miraculously” – a few fish and some bread multiplies to feed the multitudes. I remember Mrs. Scherer inviting conversation around the story. “What do you think is going on, Mark?”

Oh, I had thoughts, believe you me. But I didn’t know if I should say them or not. But Mrs. Scherer created these beautiful safe places to share. She was honest in a way that I hadn’t known from adults. Real, respectful, intentional.

So, I blurted it out: Come on, we know those guys all had food. They tucked it away, worried that there wouldn’t be enough, that they’d have to give it up “for the greater good.” They clung stubbornly to it. “Nothing to see here,” they said as the apostles walked by.

But then somebody, probably Josephus – because he was one chill dude – said “Hey, I’ve got a stinky fish I could share.” And then Bob threw in half a loaf stale bread. The Smiths decided they probably didn’t need that extra baguette, and Mrs. Jones realized a fish necklace wasn’t all it was made out to be, so she tossed that in the basket, too. Before you knew it, there was food everywhere.

“That,” I said, “was the real miracle; that people felt safe, opened their hearts, realized they were all in it together, and shared.” Exactly what Mrs. Scherer had allowed for by creating beautiful safe places for us. And exactly what we’re being asked to do now.

Who was your favorite teacher at any age?

Sunrise Forest | Modern Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary

Mobile: Sunrise forest

 On hope
“Trust me,” said moon to sun, “your tomorrow is coming soon.”

Thoughts while making
They gathered then. In that small circle, an opening in thick wood. Ancient trees as old as time standing watch, towering shadows cast in the night before dawn. Silent excepting breath, wind ringing leaves, branches become barriers, hiding what lay beyond. What lay beyond?

A memory, those were the trails they’d traveled, paths obscured from where standing they now looked back, their footsteps, ghostly imprints on a time no more.

From east and south, west and north, they came, drawn. “I followed the star,” one said. “I heard a voice,” another. “I just knew,” a third. Each brought, spoken to and called, here.

At the edge, they emerged, taking but a single step into that dark clearing. You’d have marveled at the sight of them: Black crow and bear, rabbit and red fox, squirrel and sparrow, they and more, had come, from every direction.

Grey mouse was the first. On quiet feet, she moved from edge to center, taking a burlap sack from her back, placing it upon the ground before returning to the edge.

One by one, the scene repeated. Each traveler carrying identical burlap sacks. Each leaving it at the circle’s center. Each returning to join the others.

The little mouse spoke first. “I bring courage,” she said as she took as step forward, bowing to the group. “I bring hope,” said red fox, kneeling. “Heart,” whispered bear, paw on chest. “Strength” and “resilience,” the woods alive with voices, “wisdom” and “compassion,” sharing the gifts brought, “trust” and “peace,” from far and past wide.

Black crow was the last to speak. “And I bring love,” she said, her words sparking the fire that lit the sacks, stardust and magic igniting in that grassy circle. A bonfire of collective emotion, together, bringing warmth to the darkness, flames licking the sky, a new day beginning.

What’s one quality you will bring to our communal fire to help light the way forward?